School-Based Health Centers – Communications
Tips for Collaborating with Public Radio Stations

Many community organizations have established productive relationships with their local public radio stations. These stations can be important collaborators in helping to reach listeners with high quality reporting.

You may be interested in partnering with public radio stations to promote community events, or would like to have the station produce news reports or public service announcements about your organization.

The public radio system comprises approximately 450 stations serving their local communities. Approximately two-thirds of these stations are owned, or licensed, by universities and colleges, and the remainder by nonprofit organizations or local or state governments. Their formats range from news and information to classical, jazz, or more eclectic programming.

Your success in collaborating with public radio stations is dependent on a number of variables. When working with media organizations, success is dependent not only on whether you have a good idea, but on the extent to which you can make the case that your organization’s concern is also important for the station, its listeners, and the community-at-large.

Following are tips that should help you with that process.

Establish a Relationship

  • The more you know about the station, the greater the likelihood you will be successful in your effort. If you do not already have a relationship with staff at the station, you will want to research station personnel. Obtain program guides or review the station’s web site so that you know as much about the station’s operation as possible.
  • Build relationships with the appropriate staff at the station. Identify the key person(s) who have the authority to make your proposal a reality. If you don’t know the key person(s) but know of others who may know them, use them as a resource for an opportunity for introduction.
  • Once you have identified the key staff and before you pitch your proposal, you will need to meet to learn of their needs. This may be done at the station or by inviting them out to lunch or to some other less formal setting, or it may take a longer period of time to develop a relationship.
  • Provide information about your organization. Assemble a packet of information including mission, the population you serve, etc. You may want to include an annual report and other public relations material. Invite the key station person(s) to visit your organization or to any events sponsored by your organization, so they will be more familiar with your operation.

Pitch Your Idea

State your goal and be very clear about what you would like from the station. Some questions you may want to ask are: What has the station done in the past that relates to the kinds of activities you would like to do with them? Who initiated the ideas? How well did they meet their goals? What worked well, and what could have been improved?

Be clear about the resources needed to make your proposal successful. Resources at stations are usually limited, so success will be dependent on your ability to provide as many resources as possible.
Collaborate on the Plan

Be very explicit not only about the expectations of both your organization and the station, but also about the roles of key personnel as well. Remember, the clearer things are when starting a collaborative project, the greater the likelihood for success.

Devise a timeline that will provide a good sense of major benchmarks during the implementation of the effort. You will want to track the project and stay in touch with the station as the project evolves. In addition, you will also want to build in some type of measurability for your project, i.e., what you expect will happen because of your efforts and how successful you were in meeting those goals.

Building relationships takes time and isn’t always successful on the first try. Your idea may not work for now, but persistence may be in order. If your idea doesn’t work on your first try, ask if there might be a later time that you should again contact the station. Your having built the relationship will make it easier for success when the appropriate time comes.
Build Trust

If the work you would like to do with the station involves ongoing collaboration, much work is required to develop trust, which is the foundation of a strong partnership. Following is a short checklist of the qualities found in successful broadcaster-community partnerships.

 

  • Shared vision. Partners are committed to the same measurable outcomes.
  • Complementary strengths. Each partner brings specific skills and expertise to the project.
  • Willingness to collaborate. Each partner contributes resources that reflect its strengths.
  • Agreed-upon boundaries. Each partner understands the limits of its role in the project.
    Put Yourself in Their Shoes

    For you to successfully pitch a partnership with the station, you will want to think as if you were the contact person at the station. Following are some rationales for why a station may want to engage in an outreach collaboration with your organization.*

  • To position and promote the station as an active force that contributes to and is concerned about the well-being of the community.
  • To develop projects and implement activities that will affect positive change in the community.
  • To provide “packaging” around local and national programming for funders.
  • To provide a database of outcomes from station projects for use by the general manager when seeking government funding.
  • To provide information about the station’s community impact for use by those organizations that advocate on behalf of public radio on Capitol Hill.
  • To develop new sources of funding and support for special projects and programs.
  • To forge new alliances and act as a neutral catalyst to unite community groups around a common goal.
  • To involve and support special-interest audiences.
  • To give the station a more human image, rather than an institutional one.
  • To be part of a national project along with other public stations, and to network with other station personnel.
  • To gain recognition for the station in the form of awards and commendations from community, state, and national groups.
  • To develop a “local edge” over competitive commercial radio.
  • To highlight and extend outstanding national public radio programming.
  • To extend the mission of public radio, which is in part to educate, entertain, and inform.
  • To heighten local awareness of the power of public radio to affect positive change.
  • To position public stations as “giving back” to the community, rather than just taking and/or asking for help.
  • To provide opportunities for public education.
  • To generate more volunteers.
  • To promote staff teamwork around specific programming.
  • To promote listenership of station programming.
  • To enjoy the internal and external rewards and recognition for a job well done.*Adapted from material provided by the Public Television Outreach Alliance

    A number of public radio stations have partnered with organizations to create better ways to help re-engage people in their communities. This approach, known as “civic journalism,” helps media to foster conversation and debate in communities. It uses the media as an active member rather than one that only provides information in a one-way process. To learn more about “civic journalism” visit the Sound Partners for Community Health web site at www.soundpartners.org and the Pew Center for Civic Journalism site at www.pewcenter.org.

    This information was prepared by Mark Sachs and Beth Mastin of Sound Partners for Community Health, a public radio grant program of the Benton Foundation, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or more information contact Sound Partners for Community Health, 8730 Georgia Ave., Suite 408, Silver Spring , MD 20910, phone 301-565- 0805, fax 301-565-0808, markasachs@aol.com.